Day ten at the Crucible and with the last of the round two matches completed,eight men stay in the hunt for glory next Monday evening.
Before we start talking about that though we must look back at one of the most dramatic matches of the tournament so far.
Coming out tonight locked together at 8-8 Marco Fu & Neil Robertson were probably both wondering what they would have to do to shake their opponent off,but after taking two lengthy frames to move 10-8 in front,it looked as though Robertson might have made the decisive move for victory.
This is a different Fu these days though and, as his cue arm started to flow,break of 78 & 115 quickly drew him level again at 10-10.
The best of 25 was now reduced to a best of 5 and in a dramatic frame 21 when they resumed,it was Robertson who nicked it on the black,a fact he celebrated with a bit of "COME ON" shouting & table thumping.to move 11-10 in front.
Fu though was not finished yet and took the next to draw level at 11-11 & then produced a fine run of 69 to move 12-11 in front.
Into the 24th and Fu looked for all the world to be clearing to win it,but the cruellest of kicks on a red when only a few pots from victory allowed Robertson to counter & things were once again boil down to the black.Robertson was to have the first chance on it but when he wobbled it to the yellow pocket it was left to Fu to pot it with the rest and claim the 13-11 victory
In the other round two matches today Mark Selby & Barry Hawkins quickly got the three frames required to turn their 10-6 overnight leads into 13-16 win over Xiao Guoding & Graeme Dott respectively
So into the last eight we go and what a stellar line up we have left.
Mark Selby v Marco Fu
A repeat of last years semi final here with Selby emerging victorious then by 17-15 and another close one may be on the cards here.Selby for all that his progress has been smooth thus far,hasn't looked in superb form,that is until his final three frames this afternoon and it could well be that he's playing his way into the championship for the business end.
Fu,as we've seen above and in his first round against Brecel has not had quite the opposite path to this stage and if there is a bit of battle fatigue, Selby is just the man to exploit it.For that reason I'm going for a Selby win Score prediction 13-10
Ronnie O'Sullivan v Ding Junhui
Ronnie has had the look of a man on a mission here so far this championship & as we've often seen with him over the years,its when he feels he has something to prove,that he is at his most dangerous.Ding has also looked very good at times here during the first two rounds and showed that he does have the temperament for these longer matches,producing when needed to see off Liang Wenbo 13-12 in the last round.
That said though you can't ignore Ronnie's vastly superior record against Ding,particularly in longer matches, & I expect him to come through this one as well Score prediction 13-8
Kyren Wilson v John Higgins
This has the look of been a real cracker with both players coming through some real stern tests to get this far.
Higgins has looked back to something near his best and needed to be to see off Mark Allen in the last round. What would have pleased him most in that victory were the frames where he dished from way behind,because they show just how well you are handling the pressure.
The same can be said for Wilson who also handled Stuart Bingham biting at his ankles for three session with great maturity.
I think this one could in the end boil down to whether Higgins can reproduce his form from the previous round.If he can there is only one winner,but if his level drops even a little Wilson is the type of player who will punish him.
For all that though I do think Higgins can keep his form going & will win this.Score prediction 13-10
Barry Hawkins v Stephen Maguire
Another tricky one to call here between a man in Hawkins,who many fancy as a dark horse for the title and Maguire who has only lost five frames in his first two matches here.I really am struggling to find a way to separate these two,but maybe the fact that Maguire has also had three qualifying matches in the week before this event may count against him when the pressure comes on 7 for that reason i'm going for a Hawkins victory,but it may be close.Score prediction 13-11